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*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-seven– Beware of False Teachers

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Interesting that Christ included this warning in His best remembered sermon: “Watch out for false prophets.” The statement encourages people to remain wary of those claiming to speak on God’s behalf: testimonies should be tested and weighed against Christ’s teachings. Jesus’ words to the crowd gathered by the mountain presume that false teachers were present that day; and since He labels the Pharisees as hypocrites and blind guides, we can assume that His warning included them. Later, Jesus cautioned about the end of the age when “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:11). The Apostle John indicates this increase of such teachers predicates the end (1 John 2:18). Christ-followers, then, should constantly compare the sermons they hear and the devotional studies they read against God’s written Word.

Before we regard all Sunday school teachers and pastors with suspicion, we must recognize that true, godly teaching does exist. God’s Word contains objective truth, and a remnant of teachers who know, study, and proclaim the true message of our King share His teachings accurately. Sadly, their number diminishes as the contemporary western church trends toward Timothy’s prophecy: “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). How important that we learn to measure what we hear at church against the standard of God’s Word!

Recently I heard a professor of theology with a universalistic philosophy (the belief that all people are saved and go to Heaven) echo a common sentiment in describing humanity. With great passion he claimed, “Everyone is a child of God!” Unfortunately, many folks accept and believe this false teaching. Although this idea sounds good and appeals to our flesh, the Book of John clearly teaches, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13). In other words, the truth of God’s revelation is that only those who “receive and believe” Jesus are born again and adopted into God’s family—no matter how “unfair” that may seem

Understand that not everyone who misquotes a Bible passage or misinterprets a verse is a false prophet; everyone makes mistakes and can benefit from gentle, private correction in those instances. In Matthew 7:15-20, on the other hand, Jesus focuses on habitually false teachers who look as innocent as sheep but are as destructive as ferocious wolves. While the teachings of such instructors may sound good, their motives are impure; they may have a form of godliness, but they lack heart-righteousness. They may look polished and sincere, but they worry more about draining listeners’ pockets than helping to guide hearts to God. Scripture indicates that false teachers will enjoy popularity as “many follow their ways,” so we must prove discerning as we seek spiritual advisors.

Sincere, righteous teachers of Christ are not identified by the number of followers, adherents, book-buyers, or church members who sing their praises. The size of their operation, their ministry budget, and the number of “healings” or baptisms they perform do not testify to their authenticity. Jesus taught that evaluating the fruit of a person’s character and life provided the best means of weighing their validity. And the fruits that evidence authenticity are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money,boastful, proud …without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous,rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” should be avoided (see 2 Timothy 3:2-5). Such people fail to teach the Word of God with integrity. They take license with it, twisting Scripture to say what they want to hear. Any teacher who handles the Bible lightly usually carries a basketful of rotten spiritual fruit.

Jesus warns of the eventual destruction awaiting false teachers. In a frightening and graphic description He says false teachers will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Second Peter 2:1-3 elaborates:

“[These] false prophets … [and] false teachers among you … will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”

I can’t overstate the consequences of following shepherds who fail to honor God. We must take care to follow those headed not to eternal destruction but to eternal reward.

The kingdom of Heaven requires that we center our lives on the truth of Jesus and His teachings. We must test what we hear and read against God’s Word, regularly checking the quality of fruit produced in the lives of our instructors. The Bereans who “were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true,” were vigilant in protecting their hearts from ungodly teachings (see Acts 17:11). In following their example, we show seriousness and genuineness in serving Christ.

Apply It.

Contemplate Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:33. Do a “fruit” check. Does your life evidence the production of good fruit due to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in you? Ask God to make you a bearer of God-honoring fruit as you daily live for Him.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-six – Two Paths: One Choice

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Throughout His sermon on the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus contrasts two kinds of righteousness, two types of devotion, two treasures, two masters, and two ambitions. Each comparison points to the question that every person must ask: Will I choose to follow Christ or the world? Matthew 7:13-14 begins to wrap up the sermon, leaving us to choose between two paths. Psalm 1 defines these paths as “the way of righteousness” and “the way of the wicked.” Each individual must choose to live as a citizen of the kingdom of this world or to live in and in anticipation of the ongoing kingdom of God—a decision which necessitates living a godly life. God allowed only one way to enter Heaven: relationship with Jesus (see John 14:6). Humanity cannot create a valid alternative.

In ancient times people felt that doing good works and appeasing the gods led to a peaceful eternity. The Egyptians, for example, believed that a deceased person’s heart would be weighed against a feather.[i] “If the heart was free of the impurities of sin, and therefore lighter than the feather, then the dead person could enter the eternal afterlife.” If not, eternity looked bleak. Many cultures today spread similar ideas, suggesting that an individual can earn his or her way into Heaven or miss out on it should they commit too many wrongs. But Jesus left very different and very specific directions on how one might enter into eternity with God.

First, we must understand that the burden of sin weighs heavily on every heart. This sin separates us from holy God and makes us worthy of condemnation and eternal death. Only when our sin debt gets paid and His wrath against our unrighteousness is satisfied is there forgiveness of sins and restored relationship with God. This happened at Calvary through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and the required shedding of His blood (see Hebrews 9:22). And how do we receive this forgiveness, the free offer of the salvation that Christ purchased? By faith, believing His Word, and trusting wholly in Him and His redemptive work instead of in ourselves or our self-righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 1:9). In other words, we must see Jesus as our only hope, the only way that we can have a relationship with God, forgiveness of sin (justification), and eternal life.

Make no mistake; entering into a relationship with Jesus provides the only way to bridge the sin gap that separates man from God. While many take offense to the idea that God does not allow people to approach Him through religion, spirituality, or good works, Scripture clearly teaches that Christ is the “narrow gate”: the only way to enter Heaven. In order to follow Jesus, we’ve got to let go of the self-righteousness, pride, and self-sufficiency that will hold us back as we step through the door. His road—one requiring self-sacrifice and loving service—leads to abundant and eternal life (John 10:10, 3:16).

The easy, broad way Christ mentions describes the path followed by the majority. It appeals to the crowd because it has no boundaries or restraints, allowing people to live as inclined. The road offers a diversity of options to achieve earthly happiness and to gain “Heaven.” Because the broad path is literally of the world, its travelers find little resistance. The broad way proves comfortable; it appeals to pride and the natural bent toward self-determination and self-will. Those who follow the path believe that a happy afterlife (should one exist) requires no sacrifice, no surrender to the will and purpose of the Master, and absolutely no dependence on holy God. The broad path allows people to carry all their baggage—sins, arrogance, selfishness, and self-righteousness—down the road to destruction. Sadly, separation from God now and forever awaits those who choose it.

In His wisdom God designated acceptance of His Son’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection as the toll to the narrow path. Anyone who sincerely confesses with his mouth and life that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead, experiences His eternal life (Romans 10:9). Through the mystery of grace and the gift of simple faith, God allows those who come to follow the way of the kingdom of Heaven.

Receiving Jesus allows us to experience God’s presence now and look forward to the fullness of His presence in Heaven. As we surrender completely to Him, denying ourselves and taking up our crosses to follow Him, we’ll find the kingdom of God and all of the glory it comprises (see Matthew 16:24, 1 Thessalonians 2:12). As we yield, submit, live selflessly, and love God “with all [our] heart[s] and with all [our] soul[s] and with all [our] mind[s] and with all [our] strength” (Mark 12:30), we acknowledge God’s rightful rule in our lives. And those who do enter through the narrow gate that leads to His life. 

Apply It.

Revisit John 3:14-18. In First John 5:13 John shares that he wrote so that we might know we have eternal life. Are you certain that you do? If so, do you have a burden for those outside of Christ and on the track to hell? Ask God to give you a passion for sharing His words of eternal life to the lost in your circle.


[i] McDevitt, April. “The Feather” Ancient Egypt: The Mythology last updated April 8, 2010.      http://www.egyptianmyths.net/feather.htm (May 8,2010).

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

Twenty-Four– Ask, Seek, and Find

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).

The model prayer encourages believers to approach God with this request, “give us today our daily bread”; this indicates that we should pray daily for our daily needs (Matthew 6:11). The teaching aligns perfectly with Christ’s message throughout His sermon: Release anxiety. God provides for His children’s necessities! Jesus’ suggestion that we should ask, seek, and knock, however, encourages us to go beyond a request for the basics. It implies that the Father desires us to seek His provision in overflowing measure.

James 1:17 states, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” But what constitutes a perfect gift? And what types of things does God want us to request? The answer rests in Matthew 6:33: “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “All these things” refers to the divine blessings given to those who follow God and pursue His kingdom. These gifts include the pleasures of God’s dominion in us, Heavenly comfort, desperately needed mercy for our sins, supernatural satisfaction, relationship and intimacy with our Father, a hopeful eternal reward and, in essence, divine contentment (see the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12).

Unfortunately, some read Matthew 7:7-11 as a license to ask God for anything: luxury car, vacation cottage, yacht, new spouse. But the Lord never intended us to go to the Father with a wish list designed to enhance our comfort and increase our laziness. Our human tendency? To seek after the tangible and temporary. We often approach God with this mentality: Lord, please give me comfort, success, convenience, pleasure, and a pain-free existence. But in doing this, we miss out on the greater spiritual treasure of intimacy with Christ and undervalue the eternal provisions of His kingdom.

The broader context of “ask, seek, and find” centers around authentic spiritual vitality. As we seek true communion with our King and ask Him to let us experience the full power of His kingdom within us, God opens the door to real fellowship with Him, our Creator. This passage, then, could be loosely interpreted: “Ask for God and He will come to you … seek after Him and you will find Him in all of His beauty… knock on the door that is Jesus, and He will let you in to a feast of unimaginable fellowship” (see John 10:7; Revelation 3:20). When we seek after the best and perfect gift, the Lord, we find real treasure.

Our Father desires not to give His children just good things; instead, He wants to give us the best. Even evil people desire to provide good things to their children, but God—holy, caring, and generous Father—desires to shower lasting, life-changing blessings on His children. This should prompt us to ask, “Do I ask God for His best for me? Am I asking, seeking, and knocking after God’s greatest gifts; or am I selfishly seeking after things instead of what God really wants for me?”

Years ago I asked God for a good gift. I desperately wanted a spouse, someone with whom I could share the rest of my life. I constantly pleaded with God to fill this void. At the time, I wasn’t really concerned about the kingdom’s best for me. I allowed my selfishness to keep me from truly receiving what I needed most: a heart fully focused on my Lord and trusting dependence on Him in every aspect of my life. In that season I allowed the pursuit of a life partner to numb me to my own spiritual hunger. James 4:3 teaches, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” God stood capable to provide provision and help for my spiritual void, but He wouldn’t move without my surrender to His will. As long as I approached Him as a genie to meet my pleasures, I missed out on His best and undervalued His ability to thoroughly provide just what I needed.

Our King and Father stands ready to give us spiritual gifts far superior to the “good” gifts we so often seek. When we pursue Him and His righteousness we receive the greatest treasure of all—a fuller and richer experience of God and His kingdom. May the Lord change the desires of our hearts, compelling us to ask, seek, and knock in humility and with the right attitude. May we passionately pursue Him and His kingdom until all of our temporal “wants” fade.

Jesus Christ implores to us replace our fleshly requests with a hunger and thirst for Him. Our patient Father desires for us to seek after Him so that He can open the floodgates of His spiritual bounty.  

Apply It.

Read and internalize Philippians 4:6-9. When praying about life’s difficulties, we will not always get the situation “fixed.” Scripture does, however, promise us God’s peace when we seek Him. In what situation do you need to ask God to give you His peace, joy, and comfort to trust Him no matter how it turns out? Choose to place it in His hands.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!


*Section 2 – Kingdom Conduct

 Twenty-ThreeSlow to Judge, Quick to Discern

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:1-6).

Having already addressed His followers’ character, influence, righteousness, and aspirations, Christ turns His focus to a believer’s interactions and relationships. Jesus knew that a loving community serves a critical role in helping bring the lost home to God. Further, community drives Christ’s kingdom as His people help one another to reach their full potential in the Lord. Maintaining the health of relationships and extending godly love requires that we overcome the tendency to act judgmentally toward others.

One local church was virtually destroyed by judgmentalism. A small faction targeted one of the church’s outreach programs—the bus ministry—and in the process began to attack the pastor behind it. Through the ministry the pastor sought to reach inner city families with young children who had no other encouragement or transportation to attend church. He hoped the program would allow caring followers of Jesus and the teaching of God’s Word to reach those without access to either. The dissenters, however, accused him of “trying to pad the church’s numbers by shuttling in the dirty, unruly, and disadvantaged.” Their complaints caused such a congregational rift that the ministry was eventually shut down, the scorned pastor resigned in embarrassment and frustration, and the fractured church has yet to fully recover from the subsequent fall-out.

Jesus understands the sinfulness of humanity; He knows that followers will not live perfectly. He also recognizes that we often deal with the sin, poor decisions, flaws, and misbehavior of others. This passage does not prohibit the use of discernment, insight, wisdom, or criticism. Parents, for example, must pass certain judgments on misbehavior in order to discipline. But what Christ condemns in the passage is a condescending, harsh, destructive, and censorious attitude that passes judgment against a brother’s faults, rather real or perceived. The Lord speaks strongly against those who take a “holier than thou” approach.

Most often those guilty of condemning others themselves conceal the biggest issues. Often we find it easy to exaggerate another’s faults while minimizing our own. In doing so, we rest in a false sense of self-righteousness that’s better understood as hypocrisy (see Luke 18:9-14). This builds a major stumbling block in our relationship with others and intimacy with our King. Each person has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. What proves tempting to one may not affect another, but each person fights his own spiritual battles. Although our sins may vary in type, they do not vary in degree: all sin offends God. Therefore when we, despite our best efforts, fail in keeping any of God’s commands and then judge others, we essentially condemn ourselves (see Romans 2:1). We need to compare our own lives to the standards of holy God before we begin nitpicking the shortcomings of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Intentionally finding fault, while ignoring our own problems and spiritual issues, is wrong.

We tend to forget that in God we have a higher judge who fairly judges us all. He provides the ultimate measuring stick, the perfect standard. How differently would we treat fellow Christ-followers and humanity in general if we remembered that we will be measured against the same standards to which we hold others? In First Corinthians 11:31 Paul writes, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” Those who forego a hypocritical attitude and choose transparency before a holy and omniscient God will avoid His wrath (see Romans 2:3).

At times we must speak the truth with God’s Word as our guide, correcting misbehavior and helping people to strengthen their walk in the Lord. However, this must be done with grace and love. Paul encourages us to speak the truth but to do it with a heartfelt compassion for the audience (Ephesians 4:15). In every case, our attitudes and motives must prove pleasing to God.

Interestingly, Christ concludes His warning against a judgmental attitude with a call to discernment. This serves to remind believers: don’t turn a blind eye to sin; instead, approach all situations with wisdom. Jesus used two dirty animals—the dog and the pig—to portray those who live such filthy lives that sacred things and the notion of eternal life are wasted on them. Sadly, some who hear the precious gospel of the kingdom and enjoy ample opportunity to receive that truth, steadfastly and belligerently refuse God’s free offer of grace. Perhaps they live in a place of such incurable godlessness that God’s spirit no longer pursues them. Christ’s words remind believers that while we should try to reach all with the good news message, we must act prudently in how we spend our time. When people constantly refuse to receive Jesus’ truth, we should direct our efforts elsewhere. I believe Christ provided an example of this in His interaction with the two criminals crucified beside of Him (see Luke 23:32-43). The one who sneered at him with scathing cynicism, Christ ignored: the one who defended Him with a receptive heart, Christ embraced.

God’s Word clearly instructs us to make disciples of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Matthew 7:6 highlights the approach we should use, suggesting that we need not allow the wicked to trample the truth of Jesus and His grace. Therefore, after doing our best to exalt the King and His kingdom, we should release mean and unresponsive types to the hands of sovereign God. We must keep them in our prayers, but we should not expend all our energies on them.

This concept is reinforced in Jesus’ call for His disciples to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus knew that He sent the apostles into a hostile environment that required both discernment and a peaceful, purposeful spirit that sought to point a lost world to His beauty. Since we too are sent as messengers of the kingdom’s good news, we must go with His wisdom, daily discerning without being judgmental.

Apply It.

Paul was keenly cognizant of his own sin (read Romans 7:19-25). Identify the “specks” in your own eye. Ask God to reveal things that need to be surrendered to Him. Then, as Paul did in Romans 7:25, thank the Lord for the forgiveness that comes only through Christ Jesus.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are:

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1    

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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